Burden of proof

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In debate, the burden of proof refers to the issue of which position has more of an obligation, given the status of the debate at any given time, to support their claims.

Logically, there is no requirement for any particular set of rules regarding this, but there are good reasons for presuming the following:

  • If a claim is questioned, supporters of that claim are obliged to defend it (i.e. the burden of proof is on the original assertion).
  • From this derives the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence -- in other words, any claim which goes sharply against common wisdom (i.e. the consensus belief) will require evidence of comparable magnitude in order to be taken seriously.


  • Russell's teapot is often used as an example of burden of proof: if someone is claiming that there is an undetectable teapot in orbit between Mars and Jupiter, it is incumbent upon them to prove it -- rather than disbelievers being obliged to disprove it (which, in this case, be the notoriously difficult task of proving nonexistence).